Direct Participants Remember the 1977 Zia Coup

From Major Amin. These are snippets of conversation that he has sent. The participants include several retired officers who were direct participants or observers of Zia’s coup in 1977. Their memories are worth a look, even if the post is disjointed and some words probably need context not known to an outsider..

Major Amin: my father was CC Engrs 4 Corps and on 4 July 1977 iqbal khan gathered all officers and congratulated them that an agreement had been reached

I interviewed brig imtiaz warraich —-

You were Commander 111 Brigade in 1977. Please describe in detail all that you saw, and all the actions connected with Zia’s military takeover on 5th July 1977?

Brig Warraich: 111 Brigade is located in West Ridge Rawalpindi and was under command Headquarter 10 Corps. Lieutenant General F.A Chishti was the Corps Commander. This operation took place on the night of July 5, 1977 resulting into the imposition of martial law.General Mohammad Zia ul Haq the then COAS became the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Normally a question is asked as to how early were you as Commander 111 Brigade taken into confidence. My answer is only a few hours prior to the commencement of the operation on night July 5, 1977.

I recall that about fifteen days earlier I had requested for one month leave to prepare for my war course. Initially the leave was sanctioned but after three to four days I was recalled. In retrospect, gives an impression that at higher level this contingency might have been considered much earlier. I also recall that two three days prior to this operation Zia remarked that negotiations between the government and PNA are reaching a dead end and the situation is likely to worsen .I spontaneously remarked “Sir, if they are given some more time Sihala Parleys might see some tangible results”.On my uncalled for remarks the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was startled and uneasy. Later I learnt that due to an element of uncertainty a major general was called and the impending operation was not changed. It appeared that the new incumbent was either not considered exuberant enough for the task in hand or due to shortage of time status quo was accepted.

On the fateful night at about 11:30 P.M, Chief of Staff 10 Corps personally came and conveyed the orders to me. There was a danger of civil war situation emerging, therefore, army had decided to intervene and take the higher political leadership both of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) into custody. Names of eleven leaders from PPP mostly Federal Ministers and nine senior leaders from PNA were identified who were to be brought to Officers Mess, Headquarters 10 Corps Chaklala.

Within half an hour on receipt of the orders I held my orders group (O Group).On night July 5, 1977 I had six infantry battalions under command, four of my own and two ex 23 Division Jhelum, which were already there on Internal Security Duties in Rawalpindi. The principal task that we were required to perform was to constitute about twenty parties each headed by an officer with six other ranks, each to escort one VIP/Leaders from their residences to Chaklala. Guard Battalion 6 Baluch at PM House was to remain in location without any task. There were many other duties for which units were earmarked but these were not of great consequence.

We discovered that most of the ministers were living in Islamabad. Officers and men who had gone to escort them found it very difficult to locate their residences. Luckily within the stipulated time we were able to bring all the leaders of both parties to Chaklala.I may point out that all junior officers and men were given explicit orders to remain very respectful and courteous to the senior politicians and ministers, hence, no untoward incident took place.

When the task was accomplished by 0330 hours and all leaders had assembled in Headquarters 10 Corps, the army chief General Zia spoke to the ex Prime Minister on telephone that he had imposed Martial Law in the country therefore,Prime Minister would be escorted to Murree at seven O’clock in the morning. I may point out that during the whole operation no officer or troops entered the PM House and no disturbance was caused.

When I recall the events I find that when the morning came bigger people took over the charge and we once again were absorbed in our humble daily routine. During the subsequent years as we observed that a grand political manipulation commenced. Self- aggrandisement efforts to acquire most powerful jobs became the order of the day on part of most senior generals, some eminent politicians and technocrats. National interest as usual took the rear seat and was of secondary importance.

Zahid Zaman Brig: I am following the very interesting discussion about the imposition of martial law. I was acting gso1 16 div since Jan 1977 and involved in Balochistan operations. On April 26 we were ordered to move to Karachi where a local ML had been imposed. I moved with a small party from Temple Dera now Dera Murad Jamali reaching Karachi early morning 28 April.  Through a court order,these MLs were lifted in May 77. The GOC Late Lt Gen SM Abassi was called to GHQ we moved to Quetta in early June. On morning 5th July I was told that a Top Secret document has arrived to be collected by an officer from the signal centre and it was done. The document was the agreement likely between the govt and PNA. While still studying and reading the agreement,I was told to personally go and receive a flash signal. I got it, and it was the order imposing martial law. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Major Shahid Rahman: Zahid Zaman, Sir,  it was decided much earlier by the then COAS, Gen Zia, that he wanted to remove Bhutto. The Late Maj Gen Abdullah Malik, who had been our Bde Comd in East Pakistan, and was CGS in 1977, used to live close to my place in Islamabad after retirement. I had also joined the company he had raised with  Brig Mian Mahmud in the 1980s. 

He used to tell us, that from April, 1977 onwards in every meeting the Chief would be ridiculing  PM Bhutto, and making gestures to see how many of his generals are of the same mindset as himself. 

If I remember correctly, he told me, a meeting in April, 1977 in GHQ was the defining moment, when the Chief indicated, ‘we should be ready ‘..

We still don’t know,  what really happened which made Gen Zia  make a Uturn on Bhutto…

[11:24, 7/18/2019] Zahid Zaman Brig: I agree with. In May77, there was a naval cadets passing out parade in their academy. Gen Tikka Khan,who was the defence minister was to be the chief guest. The GOC asked me if I had been invited and gave an affirmative to that. He told me to accompany him along with my wife. I had been allowed to bring my wife to Karachi. We were to leave early as the GOC said the bridge connecting the mainland will be removed after 0800 hrs. In the evening while discussing the days happenings,Gen Abassi said let us skip the passing out and let Gen Tikka take his last salute. This was a clear indication to me of things to come. Any way once ML in Karachi was lifted, the GOC asked me to make list of all files and hand them over to HQ 5 Corps. . the GOC asked me to make list of all files and hand them over to HQ 5 Corps. He said after that I could leave for Quetta while he will go to GHQ Pindi. He said the chief has tasked him to prepare plan for holding elections under army supervision. Later after imposition of Martial Law throughout the country,Gen Abassi told me ,told me it was not for election but ML that he was called to plan.

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Why did Bhutto Select Zia as Chief

Because Zia was a world champion at sucking up to him.

An interesting snippet from Major Agha Amin

FROM MY MARCH 2001 INTERVIEW WITH MAJ GEN NUK BABAR SJ AND BAR —-Why did Mr Bhutto select Zia as a coas?

There were a number of reasons and these were discussed with me personally by Mr Bhutto, while in detention at Murree. One was the pretended humility and this disarmed Mr Bhutto into the belief that he would pose no threat to the nascent democracy. Secondly, his performance when he invited Mr Bhutto to the centenary celebrations of 11 cavalry at Kharian. He took pains to ascertain Mr Bhutto’s tailor in Karachi (Hamid Khan) and had a Blue Patrols as Colonel-in-Chief of Armoured Corps. On entering the room, Mr Bhutto found a suitcase on his bed and on inquiry was told that it contained the Blue Patrol. The next day, Mr Bhutto was requested to climb a tank and engage a target. Quite obviously the target was hit. Then was his performance while on deputation in Jordan, where he killed a large number of Palestinians (Black September), Mr Bhutto was led to the belief that if he was so loyal to Jordan, he would be even more loyal to Pakistan. His prime performance came at Multan, where he invited Mr Bhutto as Colonel-in-Chief. After the function, when Mr Bhutto had barely returned to Mr Sadiq Qureshi’s house, when he was informed that General Zia requested to meet him. Mr Bhutto was surprised, having met him in the mess a little earlier. However, he called him into Mr Sadiq Qureshi’s study/library. Gen Zia on entrance went round the Almirah, looking for something and on inquiry he revealed that he was looking for a copy of the Holy Quran. On finding a copy he placed his hand on and addressing Mr Bhutto he said, “You are the saviour of Pakistan and we owe it to you to be totally loyal to you”. Then was the fact that there was little to pick and choose amongst the other aspirants. The only other suitable candidate was General Majeed Malik who was Mr Bhutto’s favourite as a sound professional. Unfortunately was involved in the International Hotel Scandal where he was caught with Mustafa Khar. He was sent as Ambassador to Libya. Finally, of course was the American angle. They had picked Zia as suitable material at Fort Leavenworth, followed his career progress and possibly lobbied in his favour. They made it known to friends months in advance that he would be appointed coas. Zia’s obsequeous behaviour made Mr Bhutto think that he was a non-political man. Pakistani democracy was at an infant stage and could not afford an Army Chief with political ambitions. Then there was not much choice. Gen Sharif was considered politically unreliable since he had been very close to Ayub Khan. Jillani had no command experience and was the head of isi. Akbar Khan had not performed well as a goc 12 Division in Kashmir in 1971 war. Gen Aftab and AB Awan had no command potential and were not suitable.

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From @takhalus
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Imran Khan in DC

So, thirty thousand Pakistani-Americans gathered in DC to hear PM Imran Khan, billed as the largest gathering of Pakistanis in North America ever. I am seeing that Bangladeshi and Bangladeshi-American social media is somewhat impressed. It is doubtful that any Bangladeshi leader can even pull half that crowd in North America. This is also a little bit puzzling. By most measures and in popular discourse, Bangladesh has been doing far better than Pakistan economy and society-wise in the last ten years. So how come a Pakistani leader, in midst of economic stagnation, fiscal crisis, currency crisis etc etc back at home manage to pull such a crowd? Is Imran Khan really popular among Pakistanis? Is there a home-expatriate divide? I am curious to know from Pakistanis.

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Trump Finds Hafiz Saeed..

Pakistan has (once again, for the nth time) arrested Hafiz Saeed . This time the charge is “terror financing”. It should be clear to anyone who bothers to read a few newspapers that he was not hiding anywhere and did not need to be “found”. He has always lived and worked openly in Pakistan and this is not the first time he has been arrested (and may not be the first time he is let go after the dust settles and the IMF funds arrive). It is also worth noting that the charges have nothing to do with the Mumbai attacks and that the current military regime in Pakistan will not even admit that those attacks came from Pakistan. In fact their vast PR apparatus has successfully convinced many educated Pakistanis that the whole thing was an Indian (or Israeli) false flag operation and the attackers did not even come from Pakistan. While this is not the official stance of the government of Pakistan (which actually investigated the attackers to some extent under international pressure, and produced detailed evidence linking the attackers to Pakistan, including details such as where the boat was purchased and such like, and several people have been in jail at some point for their involvement in this attack), the domestic propaganda and management of witnesses etc  has been so effective that I regularly get whatsapp messages from friends “accusing” some Pakistani journalist or TV station of being Indian agents because they have said at some point that the sole surviving terrorist (Ajmal Kasab) was a Pakistani. As an aside, it would be interesting if someone can ask a senior member of the current military regime to publicly state on record that Ajmal Kasab was Pakistani. I doubt that anyone (except maybe Trump) can actually do this (i.e. I doubt that any senior official can come on TV and admit this.. it would be too far at variance with the domestic propaganda that ISPR has put out).

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Ajmal Kasab shooting civilians in Shivaji Train station

In 2014 Hafiz Saeed actually held a conference of his (renamed) Jihadi organization at the “minar e Pakistan” (Pakistan memorial) in Lahore and rode around on a horse to feel close to the spirit of the original Arab conquerors he idealizes.

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Hafiz Saeed riding a horse at the JUD’s convention in Lahore in 2014

So anyway, everyone knew where Hafiz Saeed was, and even this latest arrest does not mention the Mumbai attacks, so either Trump is remarkably ignorant (possible) or he is just playing to his base, who love the whole “Western” movie ethos of wanted posters, dead or alive, manhunt, etc and finally, Sheriff Trump riding to capture the “bad guys”.  I find it hard to believe that even Trump can be ignorant enough to not know all this, so I vote for “bullshitting his base” as the most likely explanation for this tweet.

But while all this may be just show to get Pakistan off the FATF hook and to get some much needed cash (and maybe even weapons) from Trump, it is still hard to say who is conning who here. At one level Pakistan has “successfully” conned the US for 17 years and received billions in aid while supporting the Taliban and hosting multiple other Jihadi organizations. But it is hard to see this as a “win” for Pakistan. While Pakistan’s military regime (and this issue has ALWAYS been handled by the army, no civilian was allowed to butt in.. Mian Nawaz Sharif lost power for trying to minimally rein in this policy) has played these games and thinks it is winning, it has actually presided over Pakistan falling steadily behind India and even Bangladesh in every economic and social indicator. It would have been much better to swallow the bitter pill in 2001 and actually switch sides and give up on Jihad. By now Pakistan would be outperforming rickety India and even “rising star” Bangladesh in many areas. Instead, we have wasted a generation trying to play these games and may not have anything to show for it if this round of show arrests does not even get us off the FATF grey list (or worse, gets us on the blacklist).
Indians are (unsurprisingly) not delighted with this latest show of successful Pakistani conmanship (or even genuine change of heart), but in the proverbial long run, who gets the last laugh? India, a rising economic power in the world, or Pakistan, playing strategic games with multiple sponsors and just staying half a shaky step ahead of its multiple creditors?

 

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Pakistan National Day, in March.

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Pakistan’s Pseudo-Revolution Marches on..

Pakistan is at an interesting (and dangerous) juncture today; in 2018 the military used the many levers it has at its disposal to get Imran Khan elected as Prime Minister and GHQ continues to strengthen its grip on power, but that is not the interesting part. That is just the normal Pakistani cycle of semi-civilian rule followed by a phase of more direct military rule, followed by another attempt at civilian government; what is interesting is that a significant section of the emerging Pakistani middle class (“Mehran Man”) has managed to convince themselves that this time there will be a revolution: the violent overthrow of one social order and its replacement by a very different order.

GHQ probably had no such revolution in mind when they promoted Imran Khan and made him prime minister. Some civilian leaders were to be sidelined and some military leaders planned to acquire more direct power, and in order to do this they activated their vast public relations apparatus and talked of revolution and grand transformations, as one does, but no Bolshevik or Chinese revolution was actually in the works. There was probably some fear that the “war on terror” dividend is over and hard times lie ahead, so the state should be prepared for a period of harsher authoritarian rule (i.e. the opposite of a revolution; not a desire to change things but a desire to harden the existing order to meet anticipated challenges). Of course every time GHQ think tanks notice that Pakistan is facing a crisis, they tend to revert to the old “Chakwal solution” paradigm all officers apparently learn during basic training. This PMA version of “how to fix Pakistan” has not changed since the 1950s and includes ideas such as :

  1. Pakistan needs a firm hand (“shoot 5000 people and the country will become an Asian Tiger”)
  2. Presidential system
  3. 22 provinces (to break up existing pre-Pakistani identities such as Pakhtoon, Sindhi, Baloch etc)
  4. Get rid of corrupt politicians (ALL politicians are corrupt, but some join military regimes and are therefore excused)
  5. Technocrat government, etc

So I do not doubt that some of the planners at GHQ did have such “reforms” in mind and just as the cart follows the horse, new policy disasters will no doubt flow from the naive implementation of such “reforms”, but even so, no real revolution was intended, just some “tweaking” of the system.

But while the planners at the top may not have intended more than that, their propaganda seems to have created a number of excited middle class social media warriors who sincerely believe a revolution is in progress. They are cheering every extra-legal step, every fake drug bust and every suppression of dissent. And because the geniuses at GHQ are also human, some of this excitement is filtering back to the bosses and even they may get carried away and imagine they are leading the 1949 Communist revolution in China and not some Sisi-level military coup.  Which will be a tragedy because this is not a revolutionary party, this cannot BE a revolutionary regime; the same elite that was ruling the country yesterday is ruling it today. The social media warriors screaming for a revolution and “across the board” cleanup are not interested in seeing Uncle Jimmy or cousin Mithoo go to prison; they expect the revolution to hit other people (preferably “corrupt politicians”, i.e. politicians who have not thrown in their lot with GHQ), they do not expect their own friends and family to face some revolutionary tribunal in D-chowk. The status quo is meant to be improved, not replaced.

But humans can get carried away and this lot may have misunderstood their own position rather comprehensively. They may imagine they really ARE carrying out a revolution: the violent overthrow of one class by another. Some of them are surely sane enough to know this is just one more round of military rule and after it fails (as it inevitably must) they will have to compromise again with “dirty politicians” and restart the merry go round at 1988 or 2008, if not at 1970 (i.e. controlled democracy, with continued military domination of the heights of the state), but some of them do seem to be getting carried away. We may end up with the worst of both worlds.. The viciousness and disruptive destruction of an attempted revolution, without the creative energy and opportunities created by any genuine overthrow of an ossified ruling elite..
And if that is the case, then the corrupt status quo will evolve into something even worse: a corrupt narrowly based authoritarian regime that has destroyed existing politics (corruption ridden, but still somewhat responsive to public pressures) and replaced it with naked military rule over an unhappy population with no political safety valves and a worsening economic crisis.  They may then find themselves facing an attempt at real revolution.. and that will not be good for anyone.

There is still time. They can step back and let politics take its course and maybe a slightly more competent regime can come into power once PTI crashes and burns. But just writing this sentence is enough to make one realize that they are not going to allow any such soft landing. This time, we will get the full Monty, the chakwal solution in all its glory. It will fail amidst much pain and suffering; you know this, I know this.. but they don’t know this and they will not learn until things fall apart.
Sad.

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Rana Sanaullah, PMLN Punjab Chief, in prison

By the way, here is Brigadier Ijaz Shah, GHQs main enforcer in the Imran Khan regime, giving his side of the story.

And here is the full ISPR version of recent events:

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Pakistani women, Chinese men, the continuing story….

The New York Times has a follow-up story with some nuance, She Thought She’d Married a Rich Chinese Farmer. She Hadn’t.

Now there is coverage of Muslim girls going to China. The model is the same as the Christian girls, rural Chinese men who aren’t as wealthy as they present themselves, go through nominal conversions or affirmations of faith, and take the women back. Here for me is the interesting part:

Then, after a four-hour drive past fields of wheat and corn, they arrived at Dongzhang village in Shandong Province, where she saw her husband’s duck farm. It was not the sprawling operation of a wealthy man that she had envisioned, but a modest family farm where he lived with his parents and two brothers.

The New York Times was unable to independently verify Mr. Zhang’s income. But on a recent visit to the Zhang family home, a Times’ reporter found a newly built housing compound with multiple bedrooms and shiny tile floors.

Outside the family home, Mr. Zhang’s mother, who is in her 60s, recalled being puzzled by Ms. Kanwal’s reactions.

“She is religious, so when she came here I went out of my way not to give her any pork,” she said, as a small guard dog barked nearby. “I stir-fried chicken and made egg omelets for her. But no matter what I served her, she just refused to eat.”

Some of the more sordid stories of prostitution are likely true. And, it seems from the story above that some of the girls who moved to China are pregnant, and reasonably happy where they are. But many of the stories are grayer and not so clear.

The mother-in-law above seems well-meaning, after a fashion, but one can see the perspective of a young Muslim girl from Pakistan, encountering a world filled with pork, dogs, and without the washing facilities she was used to. Additionally, the reporters seem to agree that the farmer was prosperous, if not necessarily wealthy. With no real linguistic common ground, it’s pretty easy to imagine that wires could get crossed her. The huge cultural chasm, where most Chinese do not take religion that seriously, is probably almost impossible for a Pakistani girl from a non-cosmopolitan background to fathom.

Right now these stories are exotic. But if more and more girls stay and settled down in China, that will result in positive word of mouth. The precedent with other Asian countries is tragic and horrible stories will continue. But that may not be the whole, or the main, story.

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As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-

A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word “saffron“. It might stem from the 12th-century Old French term safran, which comes from the Latin word safranum, from the Arabic za’farān,[13] which comes from the Persian word zarparan meaning “flower with golden petals”.[14]
As an aside I pilfered this interesting piece from Kabir’s facebook

Continue reading “As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-“

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This is why Pakistan is a shit country-

Continue reading “This is why Pakistan is a shit country-“

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